Images de page


J. F. on the Marriage Ceremony.

body I thee worship;" that is idolatry with all all my worldly goods I thee endow;" that is a lie. As a proof however of the weakness of human nature, or perhaps still more of the strength of human passions, we are also told of the venerable Seer, that he had been guilty of this three-fold crime three several times.

We know so little of the lives of Abraham and Sarah, or those of Isaac and Rebecca, that there is more than a doubt of the propriety of introducing them into the marriage ceremony; while we feel a persuasion that they would be better left out; for in truth they offer a facility of scoffing and banter to those who are disposed to turn a serious and a solemn compact into a jest.

These are objections, Sir, to the marriage ceremony of the Church of England, which, it is presumed, are felt by serious thinking men of all societies of Christians, as well in the Church as out of it. Surely the great body of the people would be pleased with being rid of so much nonsense altogether.

But the most serious objection amongst that class of religious professors by whom these pages will be read, is, the name in which this engagement is entered into, "in the name of the

that they can scarcely even see that two and two make four; joking is at an end, the countenance resumes its sobriety, and for a moment we are even induced to doubt whether we ought not to turn from an altar on which we are compelled to sacrifice every best feeling, every pious devotional thought. Can it be, Sir, that under any other circumstances than those in which advantage is taken of our weakness, we should consent thus to abandon our religious principles, and act in direct opposition to our most serious convictions.

These thoughts will for the most part appear just to dissenters of all classes, and it is desirable they should unite to obtain parliamentary relief; but to Unitarians it most clearly belongs to consider this subject seriously, and to act upon it with firmness; nor can we doubt that their number, their respectability, and the disposition which is manifest in the best circles to indulge their religious views and accommodate the laws to their prejudices, will insure to them the right and privilege of every rational creature of God in a natural or in a social state.


Newport, Isle of Wight, Feb. 7, 1816.

Father and of the Son and of the Holy 22.) has invited the discussion in 7OUR correspondent D. E. (p. Ghost." We are obliged to make a religious rite of what numbers can regard the Repository, of the question, how in no other point of view than as a far it is proper for Unitarians to be civil compact; we are obliged to go to married at Church, and has called a church to celebrate this rite from upon them to apply for legislative perwhich we carefully and conscientiously mission to marry among themselves, withhold ourselves on every other occa- as is the case with the society of sion, and we are obliged to contract an Friends and the Jews. I perfectly agree alliance in a name, which either con- with D. E. that it is extremely im veys no idea whatever to the mind, proper to oblige Unitarians to go to or which we conceive to be an insult church for this, or any other occasion; upon common sense, and an offence to because to the common objections to the One Living and True God whom the Church, which all Dissenters we worship. This, this, is the se- have, they have the additional one arisverest cut of all. The folly of some ing from their different view of Chrisparts of this service, and the indecency tian doctrine. And consequently no of other parts of it, we might perchance Unitarian can fairly join in the serupon such an occasion be inclined to vice. It is true they may stand quite tolerate by a laugh of scorn; but when unconcerned while the Priest is perwe come to use a name which we con- forming his duty; they may be quite ceive to be the foulest spot on the fair inattentive, as far as devotion is conface of Christianity, the great stumb- cerned, to the ceremony, as we may ling block of its professors, and the witness the ceremonies of the Roman terror which excludes from its pale Catholics in conducting their worship thousands and tens of thousands of se--and this I know has been done, át rius persons, or which involves in such least, in one instance. But still, as I very a dreadful mist those who do enter, much dislike having to do with relí

[ocr errors]

J. F. on the Marriage Ceremony.

gious services, unless the heart and mind are thoroughly disposed to enter into these services with purity and spirit. I must say, I think, to consecrate marriages at Church is a profanation of the holy religion which as Christians we profess. I object to it for all Christians, not merely for Unitarian Christians. I object to it, Sir, because it is lugging in religion with a matter which has nothing to do with religion, and which belongs to the civil magistrate, and not to the priest. It may be said in answer to this, that marriage is a divine institution, and that nothing can be so proper as to enter into it, with minds imbued with a spirit of devotion, and to ask upon the act, the blessing of heaven. That marriage is a Divine institution I readily grant. It has always appeared to me so. But the contract between the parties marrying, on the notification of this contract, is a matter of civil concern. And so it is regarded in this country. D. E. justly remarks, that the remedy for the breach of this contract is to be sought for in our courts of law; for in this view the ecclesiastical court may be considered: but if we except this court, which regards only minor transgressions, or at least in a minor way-the repark is just. And it is observable that the marriage contract has been varied by different people. This any one may satisfy himself of, by going no further than to Calmet's account of it among the Jews, -who mentions a disagreement as to the ceremonies to subsist between Buxtorf, Selden, and Leo of Modena. The marriage therefore as a divine institution is one thing; the contract be tween the parties quite another. It may however still be said, if the institution be divine, is it not right to keep up the idea of its being so, by celebrating the contract within the sacred walls used for the purposes of devotion? Is it not right then to ask, as is done by the present ceremony, and as if in the more immediate presence of the Almighty, whether the parties are aware that there is any impediment why they may not be lawfully joined together in matrimony; and to assure them that "so many as are coupled together otherwise, than God's word doth allow, are not joined together by God, neither is their matrimony lawful?" To which I reply, provided marriage were entered into as




a religious obligation, this might be well; but as it is notoriously not so entered into, it appears to me to be a shameful farce of things holy, to put such questions; more especially as the young people or the by-standers are not told what it is that God's word allows or forbids thereupon. And if they were told, would it in any probability have any effect? Mr. Editor, the discussion of the subject of mar. riage is almost sure to give rise to some droll ideas; and I feel that in handling it I may be thought fanciful; but I must say there are two things omitted in the cautions given to young persons on this head which appear, to me at least, essentially to be avoided in mar riage, provided it is expected that the Divine blessing will attend it. First then, I say, I think property, or consideration of property, should never be the basis of the marriage contract. I do not mean that a wife with forty thousand pounds may not be more convenient for many purposes than a wife with only one; but I do mean that he who marries the woman with forty thousand pounds, while he really in his heart and judgment prefers the wonian with only one, is a complete violator of the institution of marriage. For if, as appears both from the Old and New Testament, to be the case, the man and wife are to be as dear to each other as though they were one flesh, does not he thwart the design, and go contrary to the spirit of the institution who marries, what, in respect to his feelings of regard, is no. thing but a statue of gold? It cannot be said that those enter into the benign spirit of this institution, who make it a matter of traffic, or political regula tion. But further, those persons violate the marriage institution, who enter into it, having previously thereto been connected with any other man or woman, such man or woman being still alive. If I can read my Bible rightly, marriage is the connection between the sexes: and the first connection (in the eye of heaven) forms the man and wife. I consider those to be, in the estimation of heaven, adulterers and adulteresses, who take a wife or a husband at church, unless all those with whom they have been previously connected are dead. Some of your readers, Sir, will smile at this remark, and say, "who then will be saved?" To this question, which need



Bethnal Green Bible Association.

not be answered, I shall only say, I hope, for the sake of my fellow-christians at large, that my views are wrong. If, however, 1 am right, what hypocrisy, what profanation is it for our marriage ceremonies to be performed in Church! It would be more in character for ninety-nine couples out of the hundred to be joined by the hangman rather than the priest. We talk much of Christianity having abolished polygamy. I am no friend to the practice; but of one thing I am certain, that it has no where so strongly prohibited polygamy as it has forbidden fornication: and when I look through the Jewish religion, and see how well female virtue was protected, I cannot believe that under the Christian system, those will be regarded with the favour of the Universal Parent, with whatever pomp their marriages may have been solemnized, to whom we owe the necessity of Penitentiary houses, Magdalen hospitals, &c. &c. From these observations, you will observe, Sir, that the devotional spirit which some people think so proper for persons to possess who are about to enter into holy matrimony, and which they also think the present mode of solemnizing it has a tendency to promote, I think should be felt before marriage is thought of at all. And the man who only feels devotionally in this matter just when the priest is going to tie him by a knot which cannot be undone for life, has the same sort of bastard devotion as the culprit feels, in the apprehension of encountering on the morrow the hang

[blocks in formation]

since seen it posted up in many parts of the parish, and to-day another advertisement intended as a defence of the Rector, I send you copies of both.

The first will shew in what terms the meeting was advertized, which the Reverend Gentleman was, it seems, apprehensive might" convert so sacred an edifice" as his freehold-the church, into a bear garden." The other exhibits an authentic exposition of his "great lenity and forbearance," towards one of his parishioners, who did not understand, as is evident, the paper he signed, and three others whose confessions relate only to the alleged libel, and who may not be very competent judges, and especially under the dread of an impending prosecution, how far the large hand-bill contains any libel against the Rector, unless it be his own letter.

Prosecutions are however, I understand, going on against at least eight of the Rector's other parishioners, including the author of the imagined libel, all of whom refuse to make any similar acknowledgement, or to sign their names to any such paper. I forbear making any observations on their confession which the Rector has been authorized "to insert in one or more of the daily papers, or to publish in any other way which he may think aď visable," than on a few plain matters of fact. I would in the first place observe, that to claim the right of opposing the circulation of the Holy Scriptures in the manner the Rector's letter to the Churchwardens proposes, and to which the said hand-bill refers, is not to attempt opposing their circulation entirely, or in any other manner. Nor is it to charge him with. "attempting to prevent the circulation" of those writings amongst his parishioners altogether, but only through the medium of the Bible Society, which is well known to distribute them without the Prayer-Book. My introductory observations, which were published long before I had any know. ledge, or even suspicion that such a prosecution was thought of, will evince that this was my impression of the extent of the Rector's objection to the circulation of the Scriptures by the Bethnal Green Bible Association,

which surely his letter warrants, and

he will not deny. One of his parishioners has since confessed that he has frequently calumniated, unjustly opposed, and wilfully misrepresented his

Bethnal Green Bible Association.

motives, character and conduct; but all these private injuries, however great, seem very improperly brought forward on this occasion, having nothing to do with the libel alleged to be contained in the large hand-bill. The first notice of the intended meeting was expressed in the following terms.

Bethnal Green Bible Association.

"The First Annual Meeting of this Association will be held at the Parish Church

of St. Matthew, Bethnal Green, on Thursday, November 14, 1815, at six o'clock in the evening precisely. George Byng, Esq. M.P. President, in the Chair.

The attendance of the labouring classes is earnestly requested."

After the Churchwarden received the Rector's very unexpected letter, at a late hour the evening before the meeting was appointed to be held, it was concluded for the purpose of avoiding contention," and "to prevent the Church from being" in the Rector's apprehension again turned into a Conventicle, "that the meeting should not be held in the Church, but in Gibraltar Chapel." Of this adjournment it was necessary to inform the public very promptly, and this was done by the publication of the notice sent you, consisting of a very few introductory lines, and of the Rector's Letter, that his parishioners might see for themselves the true character and spirit of his opposition to the Bible Association, as exhibited by himself. About three months after these events, the following advertisement was published, and posted up throughout the Parish, in vindication of the Rector's "character and conduct," while a prosecution was pending in the Court of King's Bench against a number of his other parishioners "for having posted up and otherwise distributed" the said notice of the adjourned Bible meeting. Viz.

"I, the undersigned Hilkiah Samuel Young, of Church Street, in the Parish of St. Matthew, Bethnal Green, in the County of Middlesex, Undertaker, belonging to the Sect of Methodists, and lately one of the Committee of the Bible Association, having frequently calumniated the Rector of the said Parish, unjustly opposed him, and wilfully misrepresented his motives, character and conduct, and having posted up and otherwise distributed and circulated large hand-bills, charging the Rector with a design of attempting to prevent the circulation of the Holy Scriptures amongst his parishioners.' And we, James Christopher Sanders, of 157, Church


Street, in the said Parish, Painter and Glasier; John Mouson, of Tyson Street, in the same Parish," Publican; John Pettit of Bethnal Green Road, Watchmaker and Collector to the Auxiliary Bible Association; fered the said hand-bills to be posted up in having inadvertently and imprudently sufconspicuous parts of our respective dwellings, and believing the same to contain a most gross, false and malicious Libel, tending to lower the Rector in the estimation of his Parishioners, and to sow the seeds of dissension in the Parish, do, in this public manner, and with feelings of the deepest fence; humbly begging the Rector's parcontrition, express our sorrow for the of don for its commission, and earnestly requesting the peaceable and well-disposed part of the Parish to attribute this most shameful and wanton attack on the character of the Rector, to the instigation of men, who ought take this method to shew their enmity to the to have set us a better example, and who


The Rector with great ienity and forbearance, of which we are fully sensible, having instructed his solicitor to withhold prosecutions against us, on the condition of our giving up the Author of the Libel, paying all expenses, and solemnly pledging ourselves

to behave towards the Rector in future

with the respect which we believe to be
due to his character and conduct, and to
avoid giving him any interruption in the
do hereby authorize him to insert this pub
future performance of his Sacred Duties,
lic expression of our pardon and sorrow, h
one or more of the daily papers, or to pub-
lish it in any other way which he may
think advisable,"


In the Times of Monday, Feb, 19, 1816, the above confession and exhortation was published, to which by way of preface, the following information was prefixed, concerning the hopeful progress of the prose cution, while it rests only on ex parte evidence, and the no less philosophic "contemplation," of an indefinite number of "other prosecur tions," against "the remainder of the Offen ders," as.they are termed, previous to being heard in their own defence, and to the judgment of the law being pronounced. "We have been credibly informed (say the Editors of this paper) that the libel, to which the following apology refers, has been widely and industriously circulated in a very extensive and populous Parish, and that a grand jury of the County of Middlesex have within the last few days, found a true bill against eight of the offenders, and that other prosecutions are in contemplation against the remainder,"

[blocks in formation]

Such are the conditions on which the Rector is desirous it should be publicly known, he forbears to prosecute these persons, who not only express their deep contrition and sorrow for their offence, but earnestly request their well-disposed" neighbours to attribute the supposed libel, not to "the author," whom they engage to give up to the vengeance of the law, which they were themselves so terrified at and so anxious to escape, but "to the instigation of men" who it seems ought to have set them "a better example." Who these men are does not expressly appear, but the Rector's letter, and this intended justification of his conduct, (which does not even once mention his letter) are both strongly marked with hostility to the Bible Association. It is therefore probable, at least, that its ostensible agents are the persons described therein as shewing their enmity to the Establish ment, by promoting the professed object of the society, the distribution of the Scriptures alone, “without note

or comment."

I shall not presume to anticipate what the judgment of the Court of King's Bench may be on the case, after its real merits shall be sifted to the bottom, and fully investigated; but the article I sent you before on this subject having been inserted in your journal, its well-established character for impartiality appears to me to require I should also send you copies of the above documents. Patiently and respectfully waiting the result of the Rector's appeal to the law of the land, I remain, sincerely yours,



Field of Waterloo,

[ocr errors]

mind as the drum's discordant sound affected the poet of Amwell: To me it talks of ravaged plains, And burning towns and ruined swains, And mangled limbs, and dying groans, And widows' tears, and Orphans' moans.

April 2nd, 1816. IAM one of those who cannot pretend to rank with the more intelligent class of your readers," such as your worthy correspondent (p. 185) designed to gratify by his remarks on Waterloo, and the two military Dukes. I must, indeed, confess a taste so anti-martial, that I feel no interest in the discovery that the Duke of Marlborough first entertained the project of converting the peaceful field of Water Jon into an Aceldama. War, whether presented in the form of victory or defeat, still appears with garments volled in blood, and equally affects my

I am thus in some danger of estimating in the lowest moral rank of our species, however exalted by fortune, the mere soldier, who gives his nights and days to cultivate the science of human destruction, and whose virtus can only be translated valour

Whether the great troubler of Europe," whose blood stained laurels were too often drenched with widows' tears, po sess no other claim to distinction, let those who have considered the events of the last twenty years, or studied the Code Napoleon, determine.

Your correspondent must allow me to suspect that he was deserted by his usual and justly acknowledged candour when he adopted this favourite com mon-place of priests and courtiers. The Pope and his Jesuits, the beloved Ferdinand and his Inquisitors, and especially those fruges consumere nati, the family of Bourbon, will readily agree that Napoleon was the great troubler of Europe. Yet the lately persecuted Protestants, whose protection had been extensive as his power, and the French peasantry who, under the Imperial Government, had gradually acquired the comforts of independence, may be justly expected to demur. Nor will an impartial historian fail to discover some good reasons for suspecting that the wisdom rather than the violence of Napoleon, excited the late coalition of Europe.

When, in the revolution of ages, a great man rises from among the multitude and invests himself with 'power, he naturally excites the antipathy of his contemporaries, who are only great Kings and great Emperors, “waxen images of souls," as a poet expresses it, who must be conscious that to the mere accident of birth they owe all their distinction from the common crowd.

Your correspondent ascribes to the Duke of Wellington a sort of sacerdotal character, under which he was employed as priest, I suppose of Mars or Bellona, to "consecrate this same post of Waterloo by a signal victory." Here I cannot help recollecting Hymn for the consecration of Colours," which was printed, and came into my


« PrécédentContinuer »